Happy Father’s Day!

In celebration of the day, here’s a picture from Little Miss’s sixth-grade graduation, which the Cabana Boy attended since I had to be in court:

Nothing better than a proud dad and a great daughter.  🙂  Look out, middle school–here we come!

And then the judge said…

So we’re in court this morning for domestic violence cases, and the judge has about seventeen cases waiting –a pretty stellar number. Usually there’s six or eight. Everyone’s a little twitchy and not looking forward to three hours of “he said, she said” sad stories.

So he starts at the top of the list and begins the Call, seeing who’s there and who’s not. He barely gets the caption of the first case out when the male defendant in the case stands up and says, “Do I have to be here?”

The judge looks at him a little funny and starts to answer, when the guy interrupts again. “Look, I don’t care what she does, all right? I just got off work, I work third shift. I’m tired, I got a bunch of beers waiting and I don’t care what she does. I don’t want to be here all day listening to this crap. Can I go?”

At this point, all the attorneys in the room are turning around to check out this fool, a young guy who must be about 18 or 19, nice looking kid, short hair, rock band T-shirt and jeans. And all you can think about is the beers and the disrespect he’d show to a judge, and wonder what the hell this poor woman’s had to put up with.

The judge is obviously taken aback by this young man, and he stumbles over his words. “W-Well, there’s no rule that says you have to be here–”

“Great. Thanks. See ya.”  And, all eyes on him, he struts out of the courtroom to go get in his car, go home and drink his beers. Hopefully, in that order.

There’s a beat of silence in the courtroom, then a buzz of conversation. The judge looks at us and says, “Great way to start the day.” Then he picks up the list and moves on, leaving us all wondering what’s going on with the next generation. I’m all for not having to waste time, but, son, this is your life. Best start taking it seriously pretty soon before you get much older. Just sayin…


Does the truth matter any more?

I can’t stand a liar.

Because the Captain’s alphabet diagnoses include Reactive Attachment Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, he’s found lying a very convenient way to get under my skin. We have practiced a no-tolerance policy for lying for all of my children, but him most especially.  Transgressions on their own carry one punishment; lying about them brings a second, sometimes harsher punishment. Most of them figured out it was easier to be honest. It might even lead to a pat on the head and a “I hope you won’t do that again.”

But don’t lie.

When we hammer on this seven days a week, wanting him to be a good boy and a good man, I wonder what lessons he learns from the news. Lessons from all these “good men,” who’ve worked hard and given themselves over to publc service, who wouldn’t know the truth if they tripped over it on a midday Sunday afternoon.

Anthony Weiner, whose judgment in Tweeting inappropriate photos is bad behavior enough to win him a punishment in my book, thinks he can actually get away with lying about it. Really? In this day and age? Has he learned nothing from John Edwards? Newt Gingrich? Bill Clinton? A trail of people who “thought I could get away with it” all the way back to Gary Hart and beyond? Really?

We work so hard to persuade this boy that it’s important to be truthful. That it is a sign of strong character. That it shows your respect for the person to whom you’re speaking. That the world just damn well works better when it’s based on honesty.

Maybe that’s why it feels like such a betrayal that these people, these “good men” in public service believe that not only can they break every moral and decent code for their own personal gratification, but then they feel it’s fine to lie about it. Because the risk is worth it.

That’s the same excuse the Captain uses: he thought the risk of getting caught was worth it.

Maybe I’m the one out of touch with reality. Why should we keep beating our heads against the wall to make him learn this, when it’s clearly not a trait that’s necessary to succeed in life?

A grown-up night out

One thing we’re not good at–and I’ve said this before–is making sure the Cabana Boy and I have time away from the kids with other adults. It’s something parents of special needs children really need to do as often as they can, to replenish their own sense of identity. As the folks at Hopelights say:

Think of it this way… when travelling by plane the flight attendants tell you one very important thing – if the oxygen mask comes down, put one on yourself first, so that you are then able to put one on your child. Respite is oxygen. We hope you find some room to breathe.

Usually if we can get away, it’s usually just a couple of hours with each other at a movie or dinner,  hurried through, worrying the whole time what the children might be up to. Since the children have been diagnosed, we have cut back our interaction with others in the community, for a variety of reasons. Church became difficult when behavior issues broke out in Sunday school class. It’s hard to ask parent volunteers who are untrained to deal with the Captain. Even his regular special-ed certified school officials gave up this year, you know? Our other interests tend to be solo pursuits, writing, and gaming, so our time with others is limited.

Both of us have worked with the Meadville Community Theatre, both on stage and behind the scenes, but whereas before the diagnoses, both of us could even be in the same show (even though we were never on stage at the same time….weird…) or do lights and sound together, now, it’s usually just some quick exchange. E will program the sound for a show or design the light setup, or I’ll do a review or some sort of PR thing. We miss it, but finding responsible child care for a 15-year-old who can’t mind himself is tricky.

Arrrr....'tis a fine party ye have thar....

All the same, the annual awards get-together came along last night, and we decided to go for the first time in 10 years. We sat with my friend Pam, who’s helped me with book promotions, and saw a lot of friends we hadn’t seen for awhile, including my Steel Magnolias co-star Ann DeWalt, more recently featured here as an anti-war protester, feistily scuffing it up with a bunch of whiners.

The party was dedicated to 30-year MCT veteran Jim Snyder, who with his wife Cindy are moving to Seattle later this year to be near their kids and grandkids.

Many people wore costumes from shows they did with Jim– like the guy in the yellow flower, who was eaten by the monster flower Seymour when Jim did Little Shop of Horrors. Or the dreidel costume he wore in one holiday show. Yes. A giant dreidel. Only theatre people…

The evening progressed with a lot of folk re-connecting, and a lot of theatre talk. The time when Jim did… the time when Megan did… digging old wood out of the Hole…Emmy running all the way around the building after she went off stage to sneak into the audience to catch Patti’s performance in Flamingo Road.

Jim and Cindy arriving

I’d forgotten what a great group of people these are, and how good it felt taking some time away from not only my office and its emotional toll of broken families, but also the broken family we have at home.

The evening definitely sparked my conscience to make a more determined effort as the summer and fall come to pass to join in some activities outside of work and home. The kids are getting older, and even though they’re not as responsible as other kids their ages, they can be left together to watch each other for a few hours.

Sue with her Kit Wagner award

One project we’re very excited about is the possibility of helping the Unitarian Church to set up a social place for gay teens in our community to hang out–somewhere welcoming that they’re hard pressed to find now in this town. I’m sure the experience of acceptance my daughter had when she came out is not what the average young person finds in this somewhat conservative community. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can make this happen.

And who knows? The kids are old enough to help with productions, although their attention spans are limited. And sporadic. But it could happen.

And I guess it should. Because we can best model how to be whole people if we actually are—instead of only being people who live behind a label. Maybe we don’t have the diagnosis, but “parent of child with X” sometimes carries its own difficult burdens. Better to have a chance, every so often, for this kind of a smile and time to breathe that oxygen, for everyone’s better interest.

(Thanks to Pam Micosky for these fantastic pictures!)